Wales

Emiliano Sala: Seabed search for plane off Guernsey

Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson Image copyright Getty Images/David Ibbotson
Image caption Emiliano Sala (left) was on board a plane being flown by pilot David Ibbotson

A seabed search for the missing plane carrying footballer Emiliano Sala and his pilot will start on Sunday.

Cardiff City's new signing disappeared with pilot David Ibbotson over the English Channel on 21 January.

Two vessels will conduct sonar surveys off Guernsey, said David Mearns who is coordinating part of the search.

There were emotional tributes to the footballer as Cardiff played their first home game since the disappearance earlier on Saturday.

Argentine Sala, 28, and Mr Ibbotson, 59, from Crowle, North Lincolnshire, were travelling from Nantes, where Sala previously played, when the flight was lost.

Cushions believed to be from the plane were found on a beach near Surtainville, on France's Cotentin Peninsula, on Monday.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said Geo Ocean III departed at 09:00 GMT on Saturday with investigators on board, and is expected to arrive at the search area at 09:00 on Sunday to start the underwater search, which will last three days.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDavid Mearns explains the next steps in the search expected to begin on Sunday

Cardiff City played their first match at home since Sala, the club's record £15m signing, went missing.

A minute's silence was held before the game with Bournemouth at 17:30 GMT.

Cardiff's match shirts were embroidered with daffodils and players warmed up in t-shirts paying tribute to Sala.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionFans pay tribute to missing footballer Sala at the first home Cardiff City match since he disappeared

Speaking from Guernsey harbour, Mr Mearns said his team would work jointly with a second vessel commissioned by the AAIB.

They plan to search an area covering two square miles about 24 nautical miles north of Guernsey.

It has been based on the flight path before it lost radar contact, said Mr Mearns, a shipwreck hunter.

"The family are devastated and struggling with what has happened," he said.

"What we are doing is trying to provide some answers for them."

Image copyright David Mearns
Image caption FPV Morven arrived from Southampton on Thursday

An official search following the plane's disappearance was called off after three days with Guernsey officials saying there was little chance those on board survived.

It prompted a privately-funded search to be set up after £324,000 was raised in an online appeal.

Sala's family arrived on Guernsey following his disappearance and were taken to see the area that was searched, circling the island of Alderney.

Mr Mearns said both vessels would divide the search area in half, looking for "wreckage" and a "debris field" in a depth of 60-120m (196-390ft).

"We will continue to work until the plane is located," he said.

More on this story